Texting, dying and killing

Yes, I remain obsessed with proselytizing about the the mortal dangers of distracted driving.

(That mainly means driving while using a cell phone in any way at all).

Today, just in time for New Year’s Eve irresponsibility, AT&T has released this documentary.

Bravo. I hope the whole industry — and society — responds.

Powerful mental image: The text messages, partial or complete, that a driver was typing as he or she died or killed.

Where r



30 thoughts on “Texting, dying and killing

  1. This video on text messages made me so sad but I am sending it out everywhere because it is that important. Thank you, Andreas, for putting your passion behind it.

    Peace to you and your beautiful family for the New Year.


  2. Hi Andreas,
    Thanks for this Video. I always wondered why people have this urge to grab the phone as soon as they are driving out of the garage while heading to work at 6:30 or 7 am !!
    I will be forwarding this to all I know too.

    Hope you all have a Happy and Wonderful New Year and the years to follow, with your loved ones.


  3. March 28th is my birthday so I’m afraid the world may have been too preoccupied to popularize the video enough to make it effective. That said, it’s good of you Andreas to re-promote it at a more advisable time.

    I think you make a good point (in another post) about the importance of shame in solving the problem of distracted driving. Legal bans might actually -and unfortunately- be counterproductive as I point out in a piece I wrote about texting bans awhile back. Additionally, focusing on texting, as you note, misses the point that it is not texting that’s the only problem it is any type of distracted driving. We can’t ban, say, kids in cars but we can remind drivers to do the best they can to keep distractions to a minimum by highlighting the harmful consequences.

    • Yes, Dan, my own particular distraction is the car radio.

      I find that all my powers of concentration and intelligence (such as they are) are stretched to their limits when driving. The moment I imagine I am a good driver and can multi-task, something happens to prove I am not and cannot.

      Mercifully, someone else’s intelligence and concentration have always saved the day.

  4. Hmm, you guys are right: the video was released in March. This blog post in the NYT made me think that it was just released last week.

    no matter. What we need is an onslaught, lasting years, similar to the anti-smoking and anti-drunk-driving campaigns. Today there are still smokers and drunk drivers. But FEWER.

    • I think your parallel to smokers is apt. There were certainly price changes for smoking and laws that prohibited smoking in certain places but I’d be surprised if the stigma wasn’t the biggest contributing factor in causing smoking’s decline in popularity. We haven’t banned smoking, but more people (anecdote alert) seem to find smoking “gross.” People only start smoking because they think it makes them seem cool, reversing that is key to limiting it. Although, I must admit I’m irked by people moralizing about the evils of cigarettes. So it’s a fine line between creating stigma and being a sanctimonious douche. I’ll do my best to make sure you stay on the right side of that line in your quest Andreas.

    • Oh Dan!

      I don’t wish to sound sanctimonious, and I try not to be a douche, but without a law this issue remains a moral question. How do you address that without moralising?

      As Cyberquill has so deftly pointed out, this issue is part of a much larger question. Does freedom carry responsibility? That’s where the morality comes in.

      Meanwhile, people – especially young people – die and are maimed. This is what moves Andreas.

    • “… I must admit I’m irked by people moralizing about the evils of cigarettes. So it’s a fine line between creating stigma and being a sanctimonious douche….”

      Just to be clear: I actually AGREE with that. And I’ve never been one to douche smokers. What’s a cosy pub without somebody lighting up?

      But — and I think we all realize that — there is a difference between that and somebody plowing a ton of steel into a child on a bicycle at a Stop sign, maiming her forever, because the driver had to answer BFF to the incoming Wazzup?

      My analogy was purely, purely about the possible effect of a viral campaign.

      Mind you, an effort to change minds and culture may fail. (I’m also for a law. It’s made a difference in the UK and Germany, I’m told). But what’s the alternative? Not speaking out? I worry whenever my kids are out and about on public streets, on their way to and from the park.

    • One person’s moral campaigner is another person’s sanctimonious douche. How can you shame without moralising? I don’t get it.
      Laws about mobiles and smoking in the UK seem, to me at least, to have little effect on the primary targets.
      I hope you have the answer, Andreas, it’s urgent. It may also solve the drug problem.

    • I hope I didn’t give the impression that I thought Andreas or anyone speaking out about the dangers of distracted driving or smoking is a sanctimonious douche. As I was trying to point out, I think it is important to create a stigma about both activities. Unfortunately, it is often a fine line between pointing out dangers/responsibilities and obnoxious overmoralization. I think smoking cigarettes is gross and harmful, but I don’t label smokers or cigarettes evil as many often do.

      I’m happy if people derive pleasure from various substances – cigarettes aren’t on my list, but I understand if they’re on someone else’s. I also don’t just worry about douche-ity because it’s inherently annoying; I worry because it can backfire by making an activity seem rebellious rather than stupid.

      Of course, distracted driving isn’t exactly the same thing because it can more directly impact others in a way that cigarettes or alcohol or other drugs don’t. Laying out clearly the negative consequences of irresponsible driving doesn’t have to crossover into this.

      Andreas, I also don’t think that laws can have no place in limiting behavior. For example, I favor taxing cigarettes and carbon higher – smoking bans don’t actually bother me that much either (but I think certain exceptions should be made). I don’t have a problem philosophically with banning texting while driving. Yet as I pointed out in my blog post, this isn’t about symbolism, the laws can be counterproductive. What we actually should care about is the effects, right, not the message? When people starting caring more about appearance than results is when they start spilling into sanctimony.

      Texting bans would be very difficult to enforce and might cause drivers to try to hide their activity rather than stop it which could/does make things worse. But if someone gets into an accident and it turns out they were using the phone at the time maybe they should face stiffer penalties. Obviously that is after the fact, but it could help focus drivers’ incentives.

      Yet, I still believe creating the appropriate stigma (as you’re doing) might be the most effective strategy.

  5. Okay. Argument over. Gloves off. The video is too long, soft and sentimental. No-one’s going to stop texting for that.

    So –

    1. swamp with TV, radio, poster campaign, Government funded if possible;
    2. make message positive, not negative – e.g. SWITCH OFF BEFORE DRIVE OFF;
    3. produce horrific sound/sight bites and cut in with slogan showing how to switch off;
    4. legislate to prohibit live mobile phones in moving vehicle (with necessary exclusions);
    5. invent technology to detect infringements.

    • I’ve seen that going around on Facebook.

      Proof of the COGNITIVE effect of texting.

      And proof that wankers are behind closed-circuit TV monitors in public places….

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